Moonspell - _Memorial_
(SPV Records, 2006)
by: Jackie Smit (
There's a feeling once the number of times you've spun _Memorial_ enters double digit territory, that the cynics who chose _Sin / Pecado_ as their cue to henceforth ignore every piece of recorded material that Moonspell would go on to produce afterward really were cutting their nose to spite their face. That release's immediate follow-up, _Butterfly FX_, may have provided little to contradict the band's critics, but since then the Portuguese quintet have been climbing a steadily upward trajectory, culminating in 2003's breathtaking opus, _The Antidote_.Enter album number seven, and the trend doesn't look like it's about to slam on the brakes anytime soon. The record's opening salvo is convincing enough by itself -- an oddly superfluous intro giving way to perhaps the band's fastest and most aggressive song to date in "Finisterra". The notion that amp knobs have been turned up to eleven is reinforced even further with "Memento Mori" -- a dark, chugging number pulsating with malevolence that surpasses even _Wolfheart_'s blackest moments. It's on this track that Fernando Ribeiro's clean vocals make a rare appearance; for the most part, his throaty growl is omnipresent, and he has never sounded better.A mainline of belligerence isn't the only jewel in _Memorial_'s crown however. What truly makes this outing such a solid step forward is the fusion of subtle progressive and psychedelic hints, not dissimilar to those used on Enslaved's _Isa_ and the last Akercocke record. With Waldemar Sorytcha once again twiddling the knobs behind the mixing desk, songs like "Blood Tells" and "Upon the Blood of Men" hit like dense, suffocating aural anvils -- synths, guitars and one of the most solid drum sounds I can recall hearing, coming together in perfect synergy. These progressive tendencies are given even greater comeuppance on the epic closer, "Best Forgotten", a track that serves to eradicate any remaining doubts that could arise from the inclusion of a comparatively tame "Luna".Whether this is all enough to convince Moonspell's former fans -- and there are many -- that they warrant a second chance is anyone's guess. Truth be told, _The Antidote_ was already supremely capable of doing that. More than anything, _Memorial_ represents a solidifying of the band's status as one of metal's most distinct entities, and leaves one hoping that their finest hour has yet to come.
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